The protest marchers make their way to the Lourdes Hospital.
A crowd of about a thousand people braved the cold and damp conditions of yesterday afternoon to take part in a march from West Street to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital to protest against a proposed name change for the hospital.
The protestors gathered at St. Peter’s Church in West Street where many sang religious songs such as “Queen of the May.”
With the chorus of “Mary, we crown thee with blossoms today, Queen of the Angels and Queen of the May,” echoing along the streets interspersed with the chant “Our Lady of Lourdes, Save the Name”, the procession moved along West Street, up Laurence Street, King Street and down towards the hospital.
To save blocking the gates of the hospital and to minimise traffic congestion the protestors were shepherded into the graveyard across the road where Mayor Frank Godfrey gave a rousing speech of defiance.
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“The Lourdes is part of who we are” he said, “It is part of the very fabric of Drogheda life… It is Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and we will not let this name be changed.” (see video below).
He said that there is no good reason to remove religious names from institutions such as Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital and asked was there an agenda to remove religion from Irish society altogether. “The message to the HSE from today’s rally is “No name change!”
Next to speak was the founder of the "Save the Name” protest group, Bob McGuffin, who spoke about Mother Mary Martin who founded the hospital back in the 1950’s and recalled the “Buy a Brick” campaign whereby, for six years, the people of Drogheda fundraised to build the hospital.
To rounds of applause he said that an on-line petition against the name change had attracted over 8,000 signatures. “That petition is going to carry on to get the numbers up as much as possible” he said. He also thanked local TD Imelda Munster and Senator Ged Nash for raising the topic at Leinster House.
The final speaker of the afternoon was the man who had initiated the Facebook petition, Anthony Moore who, like many present, was born in the Lourdes.
“We have a special connection and a deep affinity with Our lady of Lourdes Hospital which Mother Mary Martin built with the help and the donations of the people of Drogheda and which has served our town and our region well.”
Three members of the public were then selected to hand a letter of protest in to hospital management who had no comment to make to media.
It is believed however that the proposed name change at the Lourdes is part of an HSE plan to secularise the heath service nationwide following the referendum which repealed the eight amendment to the constitution thus legalising abortion services.
In a bizarre twist to the story however, Senator Ged Nash revealed yesterday evening that he had been informed by the RCSI group which manages the hospital that no funds have been allocated to the proposed name-change in 2019.
Replies to Parliamentary Questions secured by Nash also confirm that no money has been spent at this stage on the proposal, and that no final decision has been made on the proposed name change.
“Bizarrely, the replies also reveal that the Minister for Health has yet to be advised of the plans” Senator Nash said. “This is an ill-advised project and should be halted now.”
Senator Nash added that for him the name issue is not about religion or faith.
“The Roman Catholic Church or any confessional faith for that matter should have no role in the delivery of publicly funded healthcare in a republic.
“I believe with every fibre of my being in a secular, pluralist and tolerant republic. For me, the retention of the name ‘Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital’ does not conflict with those principles.
“Fundamentally, I believe that the legacy of the founders of our hospital should be honoured and respected by retaining the name of the hospital.
“The fact that no money has been spent to date and there is no budget allocation for a name change process in 2019 tells me that this poorly conceived proposal should be ditched.”